Nickel City Gritty: The Burning Buffalo
Living right off of Hertel Avenue, it’s easy to become a regular at all of the incredible restaurants on the street. One of our favorite spots has quickly become The Burning Buffalo. The Burning Buffalo is the brain child of Nick Kostis, George Kostis, and Seth Stromberg. I recently sat down with Nick and Seth to chat about their business and stump them with the hard hitting questions. I mean, how often do you think about what your spirit animal is?
This is Nickel City Gritty, and this is Nick and Seth of The Burning Buffalo.
Tell me a little bit about how The Burning Buffalo got started.
Nick: Between my brother, Seth, and myself, all of us are friends and we wanted to open up a restaurant of some sort. I knew that I didn’t want to work a desk job anymore, I wanted to be in the restaurant industry. It made sense, because all of us have a lot of experience. George has been in the industry for 20-something years probably.
Seth: Yeah, and George know all about the back of the house and paperwork and filing and labor laws…all of that really tedious stuff. George is awesome with those things.
N: Yep, and we enjoy selling beer. *laughs*
S: We’ve both been up top and on the floor type people- bartending, serving, we’ve bussed, washed dishes, in fact we still end up doing dishes sometimes! I think we’ve done more dishes in the last two years than we’ve done in the last ten. Yeah we came together at the right time and started looking at places. We tried to see what was out there and it was just the right time and right opportunity for us.
N: This was actually the first place we found!
Oh really? That’s great! How long ago did you guys open?
N: It’s been about two and a half years now. December 2016.
S: And we’ll have the building for three years at the end of July. Right after The Italian Festival that year we started working and ripping it up.
N: This building was Shadow Lounge before we moved in.
S: Nick and I were in here doing everything for months. Every day all day.
N: Every day we’d just wake up, get coffee and show up. We did a lot of the renovations ourselves but we did have a few crews in here to do projects like drywall.
How would you describe your personal style?
N: Ummm…I don’t know. Husky? *laughs* I wear a lot of flannel in the winter, Burning Buffalo tee shirts.
S: He could tell you about my personal style!
N: He wears Burning Buffalo tee shirts all the time.
S: I thought he was going to say that I just wear sweatpants or basketball shorts!
N: Oh yeah! He does have the white tee and athletic shorts or pants…I don’t think he goes to the gym that much, thought.
S: I like to be comfortable, unless we have to go somewhere specific or out to dinner or something.
N: I pretty much wear jeans every day. Not much of a fashionista!
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
S: Honestly, I’d just like working with my hands. Whether it’s fixing things or doing things…
N: So you’d be a carpenter?
S: Yeah, but I don’t really want to say that because that’s a lot of hard work! I feel like I’d just like to be an old retired guy doing wood shop. No one wants to be the carpenter or the contractor every day!
N: I think I’d like to learn how to play the piano. Or how to print money.
What topic could you spend hours talking about?
N: Beer…or music.
S: I would say sports, for sure.
If you had a warning label attached to you, what would it say?
N: Don’t get too close, you might get drunk! *laughs*
If you could eat only three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?
N: Pizza, ribeyes, throw in a vegetable? Wait, how about crab legs. I’d eat crab legs forever.
S: I would say mashed potatoes, pizza, and freezies or popsicles!
N: Actually, he eats a LOT of candy.
S: I eat more freezies, though. In the summer we keep a case of them in the freezer and I’ll tear through like five or ten of them at a time.
What is your spirit animal?
N: Maybe an elephant? An elephant never forgets. Not because I’m as large as one.
S: You should have said buffalo for that one!
What’s something that people fear but doesn’t scare you?
N: Germs. There’s plenty of germs in this business.
S: Taking chances or planning for the future. If you are on the path and moving, stuff happens. I mean, neither of us had a plan to run a restaurant and by the time we went into it, I don’t want to say we didn’t think it out 100% but we thought it out very fast. We had a really good instinct.
N: We didn't start out with a “proper” business plan, but we knew the neighborhood and we knew that if we put out a quality product that we’d have a good chance of having a successful restaurant. The business plan kind of came after.
What is on your playlist?
N: We’ve got a lot of stuff on the playlist. Everything from classic rock from the 70’s to more current stuff. There’s a lot of Grateful Dead on our playlist, that’s one of my favorites. We listen to all kinds of music. I don’t want any slow and boring songs in the restaurant or anything cheesy. There’s like two days worth of music on our playlist so there’s a lot of variety for our customers.
S: There’s a lot of up tempo R&B, as well as bands like The Rolling Stones and Phish…it’s a big range of music. We both have our favorite types of music but I think we are both able to listen to the same stuff.
What are some of your favorite bars or restaurants to go to in Buffalo?
N: I wish I left the neighborhood a little more often. Lately I’ve been enjoying the beer at Froth, they just opened recently.
S: We go to the Howling Rooster for breakfast sometimes, that’s a good breakfast spot. We don’t really get a lot of time to go out, but when we do, my wife and I will go to Lombardo’s. Great service and great people. We go to Panaro’s a lot for lunch. I personally like the places with good service and people. Being a restaurant owner, that’s what’s important to me. Left Bank is really good, too.
What was the best concert you’ve ever been to?
N: I went to the Allman Brother’s Festival in Florida. It was a three day concert and it was a great time. We camped and there were twenty five plus bands, five stages, and it was definitely the most fun concert I’ve been to.
S: Ah, he forgot about the time he was tripping at Cochella for a week! *laughs* I’ve seen Trombone Shorty a few times at the Rochester Jazz Fest and there were just blocks of people lining the street. That’s always a really good show.
And the last question I always ask is, what do you want to be when you grow up?
S: Nick got there ten years ago!
N: When I grow up I don’t want to do anything, that’s why I’m working hard right now!
S: That’s honestly what I want to say, too! That’s the whole point of working these eighty hour weeks that we are right now. We just want to be comfortable and enjoy our time in our later years. These years in the middle are definitely grinding.